Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan will get his 2014 campaign started April 11, when he takes on six foes in the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland in his first start of the year.
Winner of a Keeneland record five graded stakes for trainer Charlie LoPresti, Morton Fink's homebred Wiseman's Ferry gelding faces the likes of Grade 1 winner Lochte, 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile runner-up Za Approval, and Reload, who is undefeated in two starts on the grass.
"You have to get started somewhere and you can't worry about getting beat," LoPresti said. "In a perfect world, I'd like to have another five-eighths work, but with the weather that we had, that was the hand I was dealt."
Wise Dan notched his most recent victory at the Lexington oval in last year's Maker's 46 Mile, which served as the starting point for his second consecutive championship campaign. He completed his major work for his 2014 debut April 8 with regular morning partner Damien Rock aboard, covering the quarter-mile of the stretch in :22 ⅘ seconds and galloping out three furlongs in :35 flat in his seventh recorded breeze since his Feb. 24 return to training.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will have the mount in the Maker's 46 on 7-year-old Wise Dan, who will break from post position three toting top weight of 123 pounds.
"If he is going to be vulnerable, this is it because the others that are in there have been running," LoPresti said.
Crossed Sabres Farm's Lochte, never worse than third in seven career starts on grass, burst into prominence with a victory in the Feb. 9 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. In his most recent start, the 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding finished second in the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita Park.
Lochte tuned up for Friday's race with a three-furlong breeze in :36 on April 8 with Jennifer Young, assistant to trainer Marcus Vitali, in the irons. Working on his own, Lochte went through the stretch in :24 seconds and galloped out in :36 seconds to the seven-eighths pole. He had done his major move before he left Calder Casino & Race Course, a half-mile in :48 seconds on March 30.
Vitali and jockey Orlando Bocachica were scheduled to leave Calder after training hours April 8 to drive to Lexington with an early Wednesday arrival anticipated. Lochte will break from post 6 in the Maker's 46 with a 120-pound impost.
Live Oak Plantation's Za Approval was the closest to Wise Dan in recent times, finishing three-quarters of a length behind the six-time champion in the Breeders' Cup Mile last November. The 6-year-old son of Ghostzapper finished fourth in the Kilroe Mile in his first start since then for trainer Christophe Clement.
Three times a grade III winner, Za Approval breaks from the rail with Julien Leparoux in the irons under an assigned 118 pounds.
Reload, owned by the Phipps Stable and trained by Shug McGaughey, has found a home on the grass in his 5-year-old campaign. The 5-year-old Hard Spun runner took an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 17 in his initial grass start and followed that with a victory in the Canadian Turf Stakes on Feb. 22.
Javier Castellano has the mount on Reload, who will break from post position five under 118 pounds.
Completing the field are Brazilian-bred Alakazan Alakazan, a 4-year-old Elusive Quality maiden winner imported by Stud Golconda and trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito; Ken and Sarah Ramsey's allowance winner Gentleman's Kitten from the barn of Mike Maker; and the Mark Casse-trained Kaigun for Quintessential Racing Florida, Horse'n Around Racing Stable, and Gary Barber.
The Maker's 46 Mile will go as the ninth race on Friday's 10-race program with a post time of 5:13 p.m. EDT.